Case study: Book sales, audience growth, and earnings from an email newsletter, with Melinda Wenner Moyer

Today I want to share details on how one writer I’m working with is selling more books, getting rapid growth in her audience, and increasing the revenue she earns from her writing. Melinda Wenner Moyer is a science journalist and author of the book How to Raise Kids Who Aren’t Assholes. She and I began working together more than two years ago, first preparing for the launch of her book. So often, writers consider that opportunities around their book happen only at launch, but what I’m going to share below illustrates that this is just the beginning. Your book can have an amazing life and impact well after launch.

When I worked in a big media company years ago, executives would talk about the dream of “hockey stick growth.” This is basically a chart showing steady growth at first, then rapid upwards spike of audience, sales, or some other metric. Imagine a hockey stick laying down on the ground, with the end of it pointing towards the sky. So I was reviewing Melinda’s newsletter data the other day, and I saw exactly that, hockey stick growth:


That screenshot was taken on February 24th. Since that time, she has added an additional 1,000+ subscribers to her newsletter. Now, maybe you are a writer thinking, “Oh Dan, already you are talking about newsletters. I don’t want a newsletter, I just want to sell books.” Well, this is a Tweet that Melinda shared in early February:


What we have been finding is that the more Melinda doubled down on her newsletter, social media, and strategically showing up for her ideal audience, the more it has led to book sales.

Melinda sends out three emails per week. I have spoken to many writers who shudder at the idea of sending a newsletter any more frequently than once a month. They justify that they don’t like newsletters, and therefore nobody likes newsletters. They worry that by sending an email to someone who has requested you email them — that you are somehow bugging them. Or, they worry that they couldn’t possibly have anything to say as frequently as once a month. But as you will see, it is possible to share more than you think, and for people to absolutely love it.

Melinda sends out one newsletter per week to her free subscribers, and two additional messages to her paid subscribers. Oh, that’s right, Melinda also has hundreds of paid subscribers who want to support her writing and become part of her community. She started the paid version of her newsletter about a year and a half ago, and will now earn around $40,000 per year from her existing subscribers. But of course, since she is always writing and sharing, that isn’t a fixed number. Just look at the rapid growth in revenue from her newsletter:


A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that shared the advice “We don’t know what works, but doing stuff works.” In working with Melinda, it has been incredible to be a part of the process of brainstorming ideas, creating long-term strategies, analyzing opportunities, testing new things, and finding the path that truly feels right for Melinda.

For instance, for the past couple of months, Melinda has been considering rebranding her newsletter. We have had so many discussions and text messages bouncing ideas back and forth, mocking up potential logos, getting feedback from her (wonderful) network, and starting again fresh. She wrote about the process in detail in a recent newsletter. When you look at the reality of the process, there are so many times everything feels set to go in one direction, only for us to pause on it because something suddenly feels off. That is the work, that is the creative process, and in the end, Melinda has to love what she does.

So much planning goes into this, but those plans can always change. We had been preparing to launch her rebranded newsletter a couple weeks back, just a day away, when I suggested she pause. That particular week, she was getting a lot of publicity for her newsletter, and I became concerned that it would be very confusing for her to have one newsletter name on a Monday, and a different one on the Tuesday, all while thousands of new people were learning about her work. I imagine that to those on the outside, her success may seem “easy,” because it can be whittled down to simple quotes or questions like: “Melinda, tell us the three tactics that lead to your biggest growth…” But missing from that are the hundreds of small things she has tried or developed or nixed at the last moment.

Critical to her success has been her ability to make meaningful connections with other writers and experts who inspire her. Melinda is incredibly generous, and it has been amazing to see other writers embrace her work and recommend it to their audiences. In the charts above, if you zoom in, you can seem many periods of very slow growth. When you see a sudden jump upwards, that is often because someone else featured Melinda’s work, or begin recommending her newsletter to their readers.

In the past few months, Melinda and I have been discussing her next book. It should be noted that this book is not fully defined just yet, but in order to ensure her platform is moving towards it, we begin discussing it early. This is another area that will look “obvious” to people three years from now, perhaps saying, “Oh, of course her second book was about ______.” But I can tell you she has been moving through several ideas, letting go of some, developing others, and talking to trusted friends and colleagues along the way to get feedback.

It is a process. And an amazing one at that. Melinda has said of our work together:

“I started working with Dan Blank in the months leading up to my book launch, as I had no idea what I was doing or where to focus my energy. Dan quickly centered me and helped me identify, connect with and build my audience. But more than that, he helped me figure out *myself* — what I stand for and why and how to share my core messages and values with others. Every time I connect with Dan, I learn from him and grow as a writer, which is why I have continued to work with him — for nearly two years. He has helped me understand and embrace social media, grow my newsletter and my brand, and even develop a second book idea. I am constantly recommending him to other writers I know, as he is a wealth of wisdom and a joy to work with.”

I’ve talked previously about The Creative Success Pyramid, which is the model I use when working with writers. What I love about Melinda’s comments is that it encompasses so much of it, including the ultimate goal: to feel a sense of personal fulfillment and strategic growth in doing this work. If you are curious about this for yourself, you can learn more about working with me here.

You can also see my first case study with Melinda from January 2022 here.